Who likes moving? Pulling up roots and loading your life into a truck isn’t on many bucket lists. When I moved a little over a year ago, I left a place where my roots ran deep – 20 years in the same town, 18 of those in the same house. It was a bittersweet moment watching my beloved mountains in the rear-view mirror as they disappeared into the distance. It all felt a little raw – and surreal. My move brought me closer to family, and I was excited. I just wasn’t sure I’d ever feel at home again.
During the process, I learned a few things about putting roots down in a new neighborhood. Two of them are centered around food – something we can all relate to.
The Power of Cake
People in your new town may or may not be friendly. They may check you out from behind their living room curtains for several days before they even wave. So, wave first! And once you’re settled, start baking. It’s what someone did for me a few weeks after I moved in. Everything changed with a knock on my door. The neighbor from across the street stood on my front porch with a cake – in the middle of a rainstorm. The cake was amazing, but what stuck with me long after the last piece was gone was what she said to me. She’d recently moved from another state and still didn’t know anyone on the block. Frankly, this wasn’t the friendliest bunch in town, and clearly, the cold welcome impacted her. But instead of paying it forward, she broke the ice first.
I decided then that I would never forget what it feels like to be the new kid on the block. We don’t get many transplants in my neighborhood, but I’ve started making cookies and other home-baked treats. I give them as random acts of neighborliness, and the ice is beginning to thaw. After all, who doesn’t enjoy cookies? This new baking habit doesn’t only benefit the neighbors. It’s also therapeutic for me and helps me feel grounded.
Speaking of food, why not create a way for the neighborhood to grow their own? If you want to produce the perfect opportunity to put down some roots and get to know your neighbors better, consider starting a community garden. Neighborhood gardens give back a bounty of locally-grown food that can sustain families into the next season if well-planned.
I can’t think of a better way to connect with neighbors. Gardening together can make people feel personally invested in the neighborhood and helps create community spirit. If your neighborhood doesn’t have available space, consider offering plots in your own yard, or have a planting party and help neighbors get their own garden established. Since most gardens produce more than enough, share with those neighbors who don’t participate. I approached the neighbor next door since I noticed she had a huge garden last year. We’d never exchanged more than a wave, but she talked for an hour about her plants, and we’ve taken a step toward creating a neighborhood garden.
No matter where you choose to put down roots, investing in your neighbors and your community helps you – and them – thrive.
Elizabeth “Amy” Ramirez is a freelance writer and writing coach